While much attention was paid last week to SIA’s release of final semiconductor sales in 2018 ($468.8 billion) and the percent growth over the previous year (13.7 percent), there was one equally impressive number that flew under the radar a bit: 1.004 trillion. That is the number of semiconductors that were sold in 2018, marking the first time ever that over a trillion semiconductors were sold in a year.
While surpassing one trillion semiconductors sold is impressive and noteworthy, it does not come as too much of a surprise. Because while industry sales are known for being highly cyclical in terms of dollar value, unit sales have grown relatively unabated over the past 20 years. According to data from the World Semiconductor Trade Statistics organization (WSTS), starting in 1998 when total semiconductor units sold totalled 257 billion, there have only been two periods when annual units sold decreased: from 2000 to 2001 and from 2007 to 2009. These two periods experienced an overall decrease in global demand for semiconductors, the first due to the dotcom bubble and the second due to the Great Recession. With the exception of those two periods, annual semiconductor unit sales have steadily marched forward, increasing fourfold from 1998 to 2018.
As semiconductors become more integrated into a broader swath of end applications, demand for them will continue to grow. In addition, new innovations such as AI, IoT, and driverless vehicles offer other exciting sources of demand for semiconductors. With a healthy demand environment in place, annual semiconductor unit sales look to continue to grow. Its been a slow start to 2019 but let the march to one quadrillion semiconductors sold in a year begin!